“Fabulous!” Faith Formation; Artistic, Inclusive and Multi-generational.

Foundations in Faith St. John Paul II Fund welcomes fresh ideas to learn and live faith


Application are now open for Churches and Parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport to apply for funding for their religious education, youth ministry and faith formation programs.


Talk about putting one’s faith into action! The youth group at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull led a project to support the Binky Patrol to provide blankets to ill and traumatized children in the greater Bridgeport area. At “Nightfever,” an innovative event at St. John’s in downtown Stamford, a young adult group there welcomed passersby to light candles and to gather together in prayer. And at Saint Peter Parish in Danbury, a faith-centered group was created especially for kids, to help them escape the everyday stress in their lives and to experience God more deeply.

These are some of the novel projects dreamed up by people in the Diocese of Bridgeport that have been funded the past two years by Foundations in Faith’s Saint John Paul II Fund for Religious Education and Youth Ministry. The fund was launched in 2018 with Bishop Caggiano urging parishes to “think outside the box” to reimagine new ways to engage the faithful and change the fabric of lifelong faith formation.

Parishes and churches in the Diocese are again invited to apply for funding for innovative endeavors to re-energize religious education programs, youth ministry initiatives or other faith formation projects that target underserved groups.

“You have an opportunity to bring together people, especially the youth at your parish, to brainstorm ways to reinvigorate, change up, try out new ways to live and learn our faith,” said Kelly Weldon, Director of Foundations in Faith. “We encourage you to be creative and have fun along the way with imagining your ideas.”

The application form can be found on the Foundations in Faith website www.foundationsinfaith.org and will need to be submitted online with the project budget no later than April 2, 2020.

The Saint John Paul II Fund grants that have been awarded so far speak to Foundations in Faith’s mission to support and transform pastoral ministries in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The projects are making a difference at many parishes, and the endeavors that have been funded involve people of all ages.

For example, Our Lady of Peace Church in Stratford is producing live theater through a Catholic perspective thanks to being awarded funds. The parish received an initial grant of $4,000 to create a Catholic theater group, ‘Our Lives Original Players,’ to foster the parish’s faith formation. Led largely by young people, the group plans to put on a play each summer, which they will write and produce.

Reverend Nicholas Pavia, Pastor of the Church, said, “The young people will do the imagining, thinking and writing of an original script from the following foundational sources – the bible, the catechism, the lives of the saints, the parish history.”

Fr. Pavia, who fell in love with theater as a boy while a member of a group at Sacred Heart Stamford, said that since the grant was awarded last year, several story ideas have been generated, and a team of actors, writers and support staff is being built.

The genius of this theater group will come from its main source, which is the memories, stories and dreams and challenges of the parishioners, Fr. Pavia added. “The originality of the material will keep it focused, honest, exciting, and relevant to our parish life.”

It’s anticipated that parishioners of all ages will assist in the yearlong production of the play, by serving, for example, as costumers, set builders, sound engineers, among many other roles. It’s very important to organizers that individuals with special needs and veterans take part, because one of the goals is that the endeavor truly be one that encompasses the entire parish community.

“The grant funding of this Catholic theater group project will not only improve parish life, but will help it grow,” said Fr. Pavia, emphasizing that it will strengthen Catholic identity and expand community outreach.

Like ‘Our Lives Original Players,’ the Nursing Home ART project organized by the RISE Youth Group Ministry at Saint Thomas The Apostle Church in Norwalk is an arts-based and inclusive endeavor.

“To be inclusive is a major piece of pastoral care, which focuses on reaching out to the elderly and people with special needs,” said Weldon. “This is one of our goals with awarding these grants.”

Intended for residents in nursing homes, the project’s overall mission is to introduce the joy of painting and self-expression to the elderly with the help of the parish’s youth group.

So far, about a dozen residents of The Marvin nursing home in Norwalk attend the monthly painting classes the youth group coordinates, and a rotating group of members assist. An initial grant of $3,000 helps cover costs of paint and canvases, among other supplies. Each class has a theme and features Cecy Gillen, an artist, sketching a couple of objects, and residents then choose one to paint.

“A great connection between the senior citizens and the kids is growing,” said Gillen, who is also the RISE Youth Group coordinator. “The kindness and empathy of the kids is moving to see. They are so soft and gentle with the seniors.”

Leticia L. Croke, Resident Services Coordinator at The Marvin, said the classes have been motivating to residents. “Seniors love kids,” she said. “They feel because the kids take the time to be there, it says to the seniors that they are indeed valued. It makes them feel important.”

Word of mouth is great. “Cecy’s approach with the youth group works and more seniors are coming each time,” Croke shared. “The kids play a main role during classes. There are sometimes one or two kids per resident, and those kids can really help out each resident who may not see well or have good hearing. It can make all the difference.”

The project is definitely a new proactive ministry within the faith formation of the parish, according to Gillen. Kelly Weldon describes the arts approach to faith formation as a win-win it is “fabulous!” I am  grateful as Cecy had a great idea coupled with huge heart. She went all in on the project and it became the glue that united the youth and inspired them to connect in fellowship with our wiser, older population.

“I feel it is rewarding when I ask the kids about their favorite part of the visit and they say it is sharing and bonding with their favorite resident,” she observed. “This makes them look forward to coming to paint the following month, so they can see their favorite person again.”

The goal is to not only expand the classes at The Marvin, but to venture to more nursing homes in the area.

“This project is taking its own shape and identity and is growing to be something very special, not just for the residents at The Marvin but also for the kids who participate in helping give the art classes,” said Gillen. “The kids are witnessing their faith through good character and charity by serving a population that may not have visitors on a regular basis. The kids gain an opportunity to build relationships and a faith community across generations.”

According to Kelly Weldon, “Cecy and Fr. Pavia are indeed changing the fabric of faith formation. Sometimes you need to shake it up, do something different. These are inclusive projects, they are also creating and growing a community of faith. The ARTS are the hook here and all involved, especially our youth are excited and bringing friends.”


If you have an idea that will spark some energy into your religious education or youth ministry program, we want to hear from you. Contact Foundations in Faith by emailing info@foundationsinfaith.org


To learn more about other grant recipients, please see their stories here: